Colombian rebels blame army for hostage deaths

Colombia’s main rebel group, the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, known as the FARC, is blaming the government for the deaths of four security force members held captive by the rebel group for more than a decade.

A rebel statement Tuesday claims the four men were among a group of hostages the guerrillas had planned to release soon as a goodwill gesture. The rebels said the captives were instead killed during a military mission aimed at preventing the group from carrying out the release.

Colombia’s government said Saturday that the rebels executed the three policemen and one soldier when the military arrived to try to free them.

Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon said three hostages were shot in the head and one in the back. Among them was the longest-held captive, Sgt. Maj. José Libio Martínez, who was seized by the rebels almost 14 years ago.

A fifth hostage ran into the woods and was rescued by soldiers.

Human Rights Watch said in a statement Monday the killings constitute a war crime, and show the guerrilla group’s “blatant disregard for human life.”

A funeral for the four men was held Tuesday at the national cathedral in the capital, Bogotá.

The deaths took place less than two weeks after rebels named Timoleon Jiménez, better known as Timochenko, as their new leader.

Timochenko replaced Alfonso Cano, who was killed Nov. 4 in a battle with government troops. Cano had led the group since 2008.

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